You have to admire how Gideon and I decided not to make any jokes about Tasmanians having two heads when discussing the crowd in Tasmania.
We also discussed Nathan Lyon’s speed of movement.
There was some about Cricket Australia’s confused quarantine of T20.
And, surprisingly, we discuss Shane Watson and exactly how he wobbles.
Read it all right here thanks to the man with the fingers, Swapnil.
JK: Welcome to this week’s edition of the Cricket Sadist Hour. With me yet again Down Under, although slightly higher than he was if you will on a globe than he was quite recently is Gideon G-Dawg Haigh. How are you?
GH: Deliciously, deliciously related J-rod. I am back in Victoria after a very pleasant week in Tasmania.
JK: That’s a shame because it seems like you were the entire crowd at time. There was what seven, eight nine people on some of those days?
GH: The great thing was that, at some stage during the game, the crowd was actually outnumbered by the people in fluorescent jackets who were there to keep them in line. They are obviously a bunch of desperados in Tasmania, you just can’t predict them when they are gonna go wild.
JK: Maybe that’s the problem. They’d employed so many people. There just isn’ta big enough population to employ that many people and actually have them turn up to an event.
GH: They must have been included in the crowd numbers because they seemed bear only the vaguest resemblance to empirical observation.
JK: If Cairns had some sort of lobby group, surely you must be showing clips of this to Cricket Australia and saying we could probably get more people up here, don’t you think?
GH: This would be the moment. I found the recalcitrance and obstinacy of Cricket Tasmania whose Chairman Tony Harrison said if you don’t like Tasmania, don’t come, to be ridiculous when you wouldn’t want to be discouraging anyone from coming into state to this Test Match considering the locals don patronize it.
JK: Also, it maybe the locals don’t like the ground and already have their opinion of the ground. We don’t like it, we’re not gonna go. We know that Hawthorne Football Club play there and people turn up to that and the Hobart Hurricanes play there and people turn up to that. There’s clearly something wrong with Test Cricket down in Hobart at the moment, perhaps the fast pace environment of Hobart can’t deal with the slow nature of Test Cricket.
GH: Curiously, they are actually expanding the capacity of the ground. They’re knocking down one side to add another 5000, to increase to 20000. So this will be an even bigger black hole.
JK: There will be plenty of room for everyone. But let’s talk about the actual Test though. What did you come away with? What’re you thinking? What’s happening inside that magnificent head of yours?
GH: Look, this was a really good Test Match. It’s interesting that even though Sri Lanka lost they extended it into the final hour on the last day. The wicket behaved much better than we were probably entitled to expect considering results leading into the Test Match. It took a lot of hard yakka to bowl the team out on the last day and Australia proved equal to the task. Reward for Michael Clarke’s declaration on the second day. He could sense that this was gonna be a knock ‘em down, drag it out affair and in the end he timed things to a nicety. Getting bowled out in the second innings saved him from the mental calculus necessary for declaration there. But it was a terrific duel. Four down at Tea with a session to play, Australia really needed to lift in that final session, and Siddle found another yard and Mitchell Starc finished off the Test Match beautifully with a really fine spell of reverse-swing bowling at 140 clicks. He really did look a vastly improved artifact rom this time last year.
JK: Even from this time in the first innings. He basically bowled half-volleys in the first innings. It was horrible to watch really. Will the real Mitchell stand up? We’ve seen Mitchells bowl half-volleys quite fast before and get smashed. And then he got on the mine-field. I think that’s what Graham Ford called it on the last day, a mine-field, and suddenly looked very good, mostly against their tail though it had to be said. Although getting that many wickets that quickly is still pretty impressive for him.
GH: It was. I actually predicted a mine-field on the fourth evening because the ball was doing all-sorts, mostly staying down but still some going through the top. But it actually played pretty well on the last day. You just simply had to give the bowlers respect and you had to put away horizontal bat strokes and you had to keep a relatively short back lift for the ball that kept low. The fact that Sangakkara and Samaraweera were able to bat for so long without too many concerns showed that it was possible to apply yourself on this surface. It’s just the fact that the Sri Lankan batting tails away a long way after Prasanna Jayawardane gets out.
JK: It’s quite interesting because a lot of people were complaining about the pitch at the end. I actually thought it was a brilliant Test pitch, bit hard to bat on at the start, quite easy to bat on throughout the middle and then at the end you had to change your game and that’s what Test Cricket should be but what is interesting is that so many of these Australian Test pitches are completely different from what their Shield pitches are. MCG is the only one that’s almost consistently the same. What happened to the nineteen inches of grass? Where’s the pitch that Jackson Bird has just been piling bodies up on.
GH: I guess the change was on the first couple of days because if you look at the second innings score in Tasmania, they haven’t been all that bad. It’s been the carnage on the first couple of days that’s really counted in the Shield. They left nothing to chance here. It didn’t provide very much for the spinners. Herath didn’t get the ball to turn very much. He did it mostly with flight and changes of pace. Unfortunately Lyon looked pretty ordinary again on the last day. He seems to slip into a very mechanical vein when he is faced with the challenge of getting batsmen who are playing defensively out. He seemed to be hurrying through his overs and he got pretty flat. Even Kulasekara was plying him with relative ease playing off the pitch right at the end. If a finger-spinner is doing that then they need to go back to square one I think.
JK: If you are watching it casually and there was time when I was dealing with something else and half-watching it, it was like I thought I’d left it on, you know when you accidentally fast forward something but not quite at double the speed but at one and half times the speed. He was just going through almost Charlie Chaplin like through the crease and coming back out. I think Stuart McGill had a go at him as well. It’s a very interesting thing. He also didn’t seem to try that much. I would have thought that he would have been around the wicket more. I am not even sure what else he could have tried, bowling wide of the off stump or try a bunch of leg slips and firing in from wide of the crease. It was very similar to how Nathan Hauritz used to deal with those sort of situations.
GH: And he only generated the one chance which Clarke put down on the fourth day.
JK: That was unlucky. If you only get one chance and it’s a fairly simple slips catch, you want your captin to be awake when it comes to him.
GH: I think he was awake, I think he was bit sore. And a bit anxious about twanging the twinge that he already had. But he didn’t generate chances on the last day and after a while it felt like he was just trying to relieve the fast bowlers between their spells. He was just trying to do a containing job. It was pretty disappointing. We all know that the reason he is in the team is because 2, 3 and 4 as far as Australian spinners are concerned have a lot of work to do as well.
JK: More importantly, Jon Holland is not around, otherwise …
GH: Jon Holland is looking better and better, isn’t he?
JK: it’s a good injury to have. Maybe Jon Holland wouldn’t be that much better but he’s probably gonna get a slot in playing against India now if he can walk or bowl by that point. Talking about the declaration, that was pretty gutsy and pretty arrogant for a team that have been smashed in their previous Test. What did you think when Clarke tried Wade?
GH: It did look a little bit like he’d been standing at slip and Wade had been in his ear all day and he gave him one over simply to shut him up. I didn’t mind it. It wasn’t the worst over that was bowled in the Test Match by any means. I did think that 132 kmph on the speed gun was kind of optimistic. It seemed to belong to same universe of calculation as the Bellerive Oval crowd figures.
JK: what I liked about Wade bowling, it’s amazing when the wicketkeeper takes the pads off and bowls, but it didn’t seem to be in a moment where Australia had lost hope. They were laughing and smiling and they still needed six wickets. It almost seemed to be like Michel Clarke when I saw him in the nets and he’s not that slow and he’s about two foot high, maybe he will skid one underground. Instead, Wade probably got eh best bouncer of any bowler in Australia at that point. He probably out-bounced Starc.
GH: I didn’t mind it. I thought the Australians had nice energy on the last day. Clarke never looked in a hurry. He never looked as though he was panicked by the Sri Lankan resistance. He must have had in the back of his mind what had happened in Adelaide but he seemed to have the measure of the game. He seemed to have the game under control. You did get the sense that it was easier to stay in then to get it on this pitch. So one wicket would lead to two and three and he had that at the back of his mind. The players were working very hard on the field to gain reverse swing. They did it for the entire game. The outfield was so lush that the ball did take a while to scuff up. As the game went on, the square got more and more abrasive so it was more and more conducive.
JK: Did the square get more like that or did Peter Siddle thumbnail just grow throughout the Test?
GH: We all know they are very hard on the ball these days. Frankly, why not, its bloody difficult for bowlers these days between overs 40 and 80, I reckon anything that is at their disposal, they should be allowed to try.
JK: We’ve come to the point in human existence or Test existence where pitches don’t help bowlers that much. This was a wicket which was slightly different but there are a lot of pitches around the world where you probably need a new ball at 60 over mark or we need to have sand paper put into the trousers so someone can get a good mark on it. Something has to happen occasionally, doesn’t it?
GH: Something has to happen. Cricket does have a conflicted and ambivalent relationship with ball tampering. After all, bowlers since time immemorial have interfered with the balls natural aging by polishing it to a bit for orthodox swing. It can be quite difficult to distinguish between measures like that and those applied in the quest for reverse swing, especially in the decade since it became a wide spread cricket skill. I looked up the statutes during the game. Changing the condition of the ball breach of law 42.3 is a level 2 offense in the ICC Code of Conduct which puts it on par with using language that is obscene, offensive or of a seriously insult nature. But the official penalty for it in the game’s laws is five runs which is on par with when a ball hits an unused helmet. So we are sending out two conflicting messages about how seriously it regards this indiscretion. Basically everything is left to the umpires. The umpires are required to make frequent and regular inspections of the ball in order to establish whether “the deterioration in the condition of the ball is greater than the condition of the use it has received”. It’s very, very subjective and very, very umpire central. So the idea that this can be somehow enforced through television by match referees seems to be nonsensical.
JK: As a Victorian fan, having spent a lot of time at the MCG watching Victoria play and watching them get reverse swing, I am not overly surprised that it’s been accused of Peter Siddle that he has tampered with the ball. Victorians ain’t used to doing it over and over and over again. I think there was a period there when I watched them play for about three years that no one ever threw the ball on the full to Darren Berry. There are so many other ways that you can tamper with the ball that they do all the time. I just wonder if there is any point saying, and maybe it is just all about degrees, but it didn’t look like he was doing anything that bad anyway. He’s been cleared of all charges and Channel 9 don’t have to worry about it anymore.
GH: Maybe we need to come up with a different phrase for it, ball tampering does sound seedy. It sounds like ballot box stuffing or insider trading or something like that. Ball modification perhaps would be an appropriate word to let everyone off the hook.
JK: Ball improvement in some cases I suppose.
GH: The other thing is that, short of vivid footage of a player taking chunks out of a ball with a bottle opener, or sliding a (unintelligible) off one of the quarter seam, ball tampering is very, very difficult to standup from a distance. This really was a bit of a media story. There was a sense among the media that they hadn’t been dealt with in a transparent fashion and that rubbed on the authorities. The media got their backs up and they went in pretty hard, perhaps harder than they would have if the process would have been more out in the open.
JK: Definitely. Let’s talk about Sri Lanka a little bit. They weren’t dreadful in this Test Math but it is hard to see how they improve for the next one. It seems like Matthews, Dilshan, Kumar and Mahela are all in decent form but that’s a massive tail and Herath still looks like their only bowler capable of troubling Australia and he’s not gonna get many pitches that are gonna help him.
GH: One or two reasonable spells, but particularly Welegedera, because he has been out of the game for so long, struggled for his rhythm, struggled for his length and the Australians really sweated on him particularly in the first innings. They could see that he was the vulnerable component. Matthews just never looks to me like he’s gonna get a batsman out. He looks to me like a net bowler. Not sure what is role is in the team. He bats at No. 6 and he rolls the arm over on occasions to soak up some overs. He’s got one Test century in 28 games and everyone regards him as Jayawardane’s successor. To me that’s far from obvious.
JK: He’s as Jayawardane’s successor I suppose because they’ve got a bit of a talent cliff that they’re about to jump off as much as anything. Everything he’s done in his career, Angelo Matthews, has been in Limited Overs Cricket. He really hasn’t stepped up in anyway in Test Cricket. Yet again, in this match, he had the chance to really kick on and put Australia almost behind if not on level playing field but he just never seems to be able to do it. But jeez, he’s so good looking, Gideon, who wouldn’t want him as their captain.
GH: he dropped a demoralizing catch too.
JK: Oh, that catch was shocking. I couldn’t believe it was him because he is one of the best fielders probably in World Cricket. He can’t make a mess of that being that athletic, it impossible to be that bad.
GH: It looked to me that he was half-asleep, like he’d lost track of where the rope was and spooked himself as to how close he was to the boundary. It was the kind of catch drop that takes the wind out of the bowler’s sails even though it was Hussey on 96. It was indicative of a pretty low-intensity fielding effort. I know they’ve never been particularly famous for their fielding but it didn’t seem like they were more committed to the act of retrieving than of interception.
JK: they were like that at times against England, I think they are still probably the best Asian fielding side. Guys like Matthews and Dilshan and obviously Jayawardane and Kumar are also quite good catchers. But they don’t always necessarily look like they want to be in the field which can be a bit of a problem. I want to also talk about the injury crisis of Australian quick bowlers. Someone sent me a link on Twitter. They had a look at the amount of overs that hadn’t been completed in Australian Test Cricket over the years. They actually did it worldwide. And it showed that Australian cricketers aren’t getting injured that much more than before. Now that’s obviously not a perfect way to look at it because a lot of these guys are getting injured before they are even getting in the side. But I wonder if it is just an injury crisis or it literally is what happens every now and again you have a bunch of quick bowlers who all fall apart.
GH: What you have to realize is that it is partly an artifact of how good sports medicine is these days. So many careers now are now being prolonged that would otherwise have naturally expired. A bowler like Ryan Harris wouldn’t be playing Cricket ten years ago because injury would have caught up with him. As it is, it’s good enough for him to play one Test in every three and he can kind of make a career out of that and there is the infrastructure and resources around to keep him on the park intermittent. Players are now closer to the brink of injury than they have ever been before because medical science backs itself to be able to rehabilitate them quickly and the game is more professional anyway so it’s possible these days to play even though you might have a physique that’s more susceptible to injured than ten years ago. It is weird the conflicting signals were sent out about Hilfenhaus this summer or this year. He was sent over to the one-dayers in England when you don’t really think of him as one of Australia’s first-choice one-day bowlers, bit pointless to send him over there. Now he’s started playing in the T20 side. I saw him bowl in a couple Shield games and he looked pretty tired as though he was going through the motions. You thought well he’s just looking after himself before the Test Matches, but then he bowled exactly like that during the Test Matches. Here, even before he got injured, he looked like no threat to anyone.
JK: It’s an amazing thing about Hilfenhaus, his technique is so simple that even Cricket writers can notice when it changes. You can tell when his arm is lower and when he’s not getting through the crease correctly. You can tell by the way the ball swings, if it swings early for him, he’s useless and if it swings late, he’s a God. But, most importantly, as long as he’s fit for all these Champions League games, I think that’s all that really matters at the end of the day. Talking about Sports medicine, I wanna talk about eh man, he’s beyond sports medicine, I think he’s his own personal witch doctor, Shane Watson. Are you comfortable with the fact that you may live in a world where very shortly Shane Watson can be known as the Australian Test Captain.
GH: Strange. He looked pretty anonymous for quite a lot of the Test Match. We’ve spoken about this before J-Rod. He looked a great front-runner as an opener with the ball coming on the bat but when he has time to think about it, when he needs to do something, other than simply blast fours, he’s strangely ambivalent about this whole batting art. As a Test Match No. 4, it’s little bit hard to take him seriously. I thought that he bowled pretty well on the last day and bowled a lot of overs and looed aggressive and looks in the contest. When he’s not happy he can just go through the motions. Sometimes when Shane Watson sets off from the end of his mark, I think he’s only 50-50 to get to the crease.
JK: Sometimes, you can see. It’s almost like it’s all gonna fall apart almost humpty dumpty style. He won’t quite make it to the end whereas in this Test he looked like he was gonna get there, he wasn’t bowling that quickly, but it’s almost like no one’s every told him that he doesn’t bowl that quickly anymore. He believes that and he will glare down a batsman floating up an out swinger at 120 k like no one can.
GH: In the first innings, I thought I had seen more confident men walking in the fields then Watson running up to bowl. But he looked serious in the second innings. Perhaps because he realizes now that he’s gotta make a contribution, a large, general all-round contribution. He can’t rely on his contributions solely with the bat. So perhaps that’s an indication that he feels a little bit vulnerable in this team.
JK: If he doesn’t feel vulnerable then I actually worry. He’s got a batting average of 36, that’s pretty vulnerable. When Eddie Cowan’s batting average was 36, all I heard from the press was how he was inches from being dropped and Watson’s worked his average down. I don’t think its ever been higher than 41, 42. He should be vulnerable because he doesn’t always bowl and quite often he says he not be able to bowl again.
GH: His average under Clarke is under 25 in 11 Test Matches and yet Ian Chappell goes on and on about how Australia needs David Warner and Shane Watson opening the innings.
JK: As we’ve talked before and I’m actually halfway through an article on Cricinfo about the exact same thing – the myth that he is an attacking batsman. That’s something that we all should be talking about. I think in the 2010-11 Ashes he batted slower than Hussey and Katich and maybe even Cook. He doesn’t bat that aggressively. He hits a couple of fours and then he doesn’t quite know what to do next and then he just sits around there for a while, which is why he struggles to make 100s.
GH: He looks like an attacking batsman because he scores such a high proportion of his run sin boundaries but that’s indicative of the general intertia around his batting when he is not hitting boundaries.
JK: Batting interia , that’s always been my problem.
GH: He does play a lot of dot balls. Even in this Test Match he struggled to turn over the strike. I thought Herath bowled really well to him, made him look like a bit of a mug, certainly didn’t make him look like a player who had played 30-odd Test Matches.
JK: What do you think of Jackson Bird and Usman Khawaja coming in? I’m pretty happy with both of those selections. So many people on Twitter ask me why is Australian Cricket not picking Usman Khawaja and I always say because he averaged about 12 last summer. But this summer he’s come back and he’s done all he can. He’s played some good innings in Country Cricket without being brilliant. And Jackson Bird, if we trust form at all, surely he has to get a game eventually.
GH: To me, day in, day out, he looks like the most consistent and impressive fast bowler outside the Test team. So just on the evidence of my own eyes, I think the selectors have gotten that one right. It’s funny that Khawaja’s Test career came to a semi-colon at Bellerive last year because we saw that he struggled to get off strike, he struggled to keep the game ticking over on that last day when Australia really needed someone to keep feeding the strike to David Warner who was batting so well. The other thing that has been held against Khawaja is his fielding which frankly is poor and probably remains poor. I don’t think it’s gonna change all that much in a year. But he’s got a touch of class about him. He scores in different areas to the rest of the Australian team. He’s versatile. He can bat at any point in the order, he could even open. He’s spent a lot of his career opening the batting. So he’s got a lot to recommend him as a specialist batsman.
JK: Definitely. I am happy with him getting another chance because I didn’t want him kicked away altogether. I do think he’s got some skill but he definitely needed that kick from Inverarity and the selectors of not being picked in the Australia A squad. I like tough love, unless I am on the receiving end of it. The only other thing I wanted to ask you about was the quarantine. I believe that no one’s allowed to have a Test player and a T20 player in the same room at the same time or I’m misreading it and none of the Test players are going to play in the Big Bash between now and Boxing Day.
GH: That’s interesting considering the bizarre state of affairs that we talked about couple of weeks ago where Khawaja was flown out of the Chairman’s XI game so he could play in the Big Bash League game on Saturday. Yet again it’s a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing in Australian Cricket at the moment. There seem to be different political power bases in Australia trying to assert themselves at the expense of the other. It feels a little bit similar in some respect to 2010-11 where it was not clear whether Cricket Australia was actually a Cricket administration or a marketing organization that occasionally dabbled in Cricket.
JK: I don’t think anyone at Cricket Australia or anyone involved in the Big Bash League will be too happy with the word quarantine. It’s one of those things that Mickey Arthur probably said by accident, probably repeated a word that someone in the press had said to him. But I love that. That should getting cult status among Test Cricket fans. We need to quarantine our players from T20 Cricket.
GH: It is an emotive word and frankly an accurate word considering the way in which the Champions League has interfered with Australia’s preparation coming into this series, the way in which the priorities of franchises seems to take precedence over the long term needs of Australian Cricket, frankly Australian Cricket is at war with itself often enough. It is weird to go back to your hotel room after a day of watching Test Cricket and turn on the television and there is Cricket from somewhere else, you are not sure where it is from, you almost can’t tell the teams apart, this strange evening burlesque cricket going on when you’d actually prefer to be recuperating from the day at the ground.
JK: I hate you for saying burlesque cricket because that will be exactly how it is marketed next year. We’ll leave it there Gideon. Thank you very much.
GH: My pleasure, Jarrod. Glad we got there in the end.